camosilver, Exploring Abandoned Buildings in Detroit, November 25, 2014.
Against a background of melancholy orchestral music, this handheld footage follows people exploring a variety of abandoned buildings in Detroit, MI, including old schools, churches, and theaters. The goal of the video is unclear. While it does the important work of giving visibility to spaces that have potentially been forgotten, framing the project as an exploration glamorizes these buildings that have most likely foreclosed or been abandoned for financial reasons. The people exploring these buildings most likely have not been personally affected by the foreclosures, but have enough privilege to treat the poverty-stricken buildings as museums. After the city of Detroit filed for bankruptcy, many beautiful old buildings were left to themselves, and videos like this depict a reclaiming of these sites of foreclosure for viewing and objectifying. The video names the places it explores, but doesn’t say how these buildings came to be abandoned, erasing a large part of city and building history.
Like traffic cones or hunting gear, this abandoned building is painted orange to bring attention to it. In 2006, the group "Object Orange" began painting abandoned buildings in Detroit "Tiggerific Orange" to draw the eye and convince the city to tear down the buildings. As a project, it might have worked, as the group of artists noticed that the first building they tagged got torn down in a matter of months. While the project successfully brings attention to the issues of foreclosure and abandonment extremely prevelant in Detroit, the image itself doesn't accomplish the same aim. Without background, it is simply a beautifully composed photograph that contrasts the vibrant orange building to the grey sky and white snow that surrounds it. Instead of viewing the photograph with alarm, we view it as beautiful and tragic. As an image, "Object Orange" does more to promote the organization than the cause itself.
Emily Peterson '19